Sunday, July 28, 2019

CHRIS ARNADE AND HIS PHOTO-ESSAY COLLECTION: DIGNITY


"Religion and faith are essential for surviving the streets of the South Bronx. Everyone I met there who was living homeless or battling an addiction held a deep faith. Street walking is stunningly dangerous work, and everyone has stories of being cut, attacked and threatened themselves or stories of others who were killed. Everyone has to deal with the danger. Sometimes through drugs. Sometimes through faith. Few work without a mix of heroin, Xanax, or crack. None without faith. 'You know what kept me through all that? God. Whenever I got in the car, God got into the car with me.'

There are dirty Bibles in crack houses, Korans in abandoned buildings,. There is a picture of the Last Supper that moves with a couple living on the streets. It is the only real possession they own, beyond the Bible. It has hung in an abandoned building held in place by a syringe stuck in the wall. It has hung in a sewage-filled basement, and it has leaned against a pole under an expressway.

Rosaries, crucifixes, and religious icons are worn for protection and good luck. Pages of the Bible are torn out, folded up, and kept in pockets, to be pulled out and fingered nervously or read over in times of stress or held during prayers...

When you're up against evil, whether the mysterious effects of demons or the all-too-explainable effects of drugs, the front row's world of science, education and smart arguments doesn't do much for you."

“[C]hurches understand the streets, understand everyone is a sinner and everyone fails.”
--Chris Arnade, Dignity: Seeking Respect in Back Row America

Arnade, a writer and photographer, quit his job as a Wall Street bond trader to wander about America actually sitting beside, talking with, and listening to the stories of the people that the educated, privileged, faith-disdaining, and mostly white often purport to want to help.

He has no particular "answers." He has no axe to grind nor agenda to promote. He just gives some faces and voices to the otherwise unseen and unheard.

He also discovered that the local McDonald's, in dying towns all over the country, is the new town square.


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